Warrenpoint regain nerve for sudden death win

Storming comeback by Royal Dublin falls just short on 20th green

When it mattered most, their survival instincts rescued them. And yet, as their supporters around the 20th green – the second hole on the O'Meara Course – whooped and hollered in appreciation, there were barely audible sounds from Warrenpoint's Colm Campbell jnr and Ryan Gribben as the two released sighs of relief in finally getting the job done over a tenacious Royal Dublin pairing of Barry Anderson and Ian O'Rourke in their semi-final of the Barton Shield.

What a way this was to kickstart the festival of golf that is the AIG Irish Cups and Shields. Warrenpoint, who had coasted for the vast majority of their foursomes battle around the tree-lined course, were ultimately forced to display fortitude beyond the call of duty to fashion a hard-fought one-hole overall victory and set up a final showdown with Muskerry, who had an altogether easier assignment in overcoming Athenry by 10 holes.

Settling the score

Let’s get this straight. Warrenpoint’s top pairing of

William Hanna



Stephen Coulter

were winners by two holes over

Richard Knightly


Sean Ryan

, whilst Campbell and Gribben – who had been two up at the turn – lost by two holes to Anderson and O’Rourke. However, with the overall match tied, it was the second pairings who continued playing. And so it was that Campbell and Gribben finished the job on the second tie hole, winning in what was now effectively sudden death with a par to Royal Dublin’s bogey.

The fighting qualities of Royal Dublin were exemplified by Anderson, a Sligo man, and O’Rourke, a Cork man, who won three successive holes – the 16th, 17th and 18th – in pars to leave Warrenpoint shellshocked and grateful for the long walk from the 18th green to the first tee, which gave Campbell and Gribben time to refocus.

On that 18th hole, a par four of 440 yards, Warrenpoint had seemed – just as they had appeared all day – to be in control. Gribben’s drive found the fairway, some 35 yards ahead of O’Rourkes. Anderson’s approach found a greenside bunker, but Campbell, seemingly with the advantage, found a sand trap on the other side.

Rangefinders needed

So it was that the strange sight of players using rangefinders from their respective bunkers determined whose shot would be first; and, thereafter, after both played out to 5.5m (18ft), a flip of the coin determined who would putt first. Anderson holed his; Campbell missed. It meant that the Royal Dublin pair won their match by two holes, but, with the overall result all square, extra holes were required.

On the long walk behind the range from the 18th to the first, Campbell’s father, Colm snr, in his role as team captain, gave them words of advice. “You start again. You’re still in it. Keep your heads up,” he said.

As it transpired, two further holes were needed to book a final spot.

For Campbell jnr, winner of the East of Ireland Championship this year and a member of the Irish team which won the Home Internationals, this has been a fabulous season but one which would have been incomplete without a club title.

“You nearly feel under more pressure when you are playing for your home club because, obviously, all eyes are looking at you. At the end of the day, winning an All Ireland title with your club is as good as any championship. It’s as important as anything,” he said.

Muskerry glide through

In their way in the final will be a Muskerry team who glided past a disappointed Athenry by 10 holes. Former international

Niall Gorey

and Dave O’Donovan were winners by five holes over Brian O’Reilly and

Peter Dolan

, while

Daniel Hallissey


John Waldron

were also five-holes winners over

Dave Byrne


Joe Bernie


Athenry were disturbed beforehand by the loss of one of their players, Martin Hynes, who withdrew with an eye injury.

For their part, Muskerry stuck to their task and, with all four players having experienced the tough side of life in losing the Senior Cup final to Portmarnock at Castlerock in 2011, reached another final with consummate ease. "It was fairly convincing, but they're a good bunch of lads with good experience and it came to the fore . . . But a final is a final, it's 50-50, and that's it," said their team captain, Greg O'Sullivan.

Castle Golf Club, with the famous Moran sporting bloodline flowing through it, accounted for Warrenpoint by 4-1 in the Irish Junior Cup semi-final to set up a final showdown against Castletroy, who were 3½-1½ winners over Athenry.

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times